How is the National Math Foundation’s Approach Different?

Building a Foundation: Making Movement Count

The National Math Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that addresses issues of math achievement and obesity by working with elementary schools nationwide. By adding playful fun to learning, the National Math Foundation’s approach breaks the mold of traditional teaching techniques.

Collaboration of educators and professionals in fields such as health, physical education, nutrition and mathematics will teach life necessities, such as basic nutrition, health, and literacy. Instead of simply supplying information, the National Math Foundation will promote teaching techniques through kinesthetics – inviting students to fully engage in each lesson.

Opposition to Supplemental and Modern Teaching Methods

Teachers and administrators who have seen success with conventional methods may be hesitant to try something new, especially if it requires a large time and monetary investment. This obstacle could prevent educators from further pursuing successful innovations in education, including those offered by NMF. With a strong emphasis on standardized testing, teachers must enforce a rigorous curriculum guided by state and national regulations.

Some educators may feel that supplemental programming, such as the services provided by the National Math Foundation, detracts from mandated lesson plans. The teaching techniques, although proven successful in increasing retention and appreciation of a subject, do not cover all information required by state or national standards. With tight constraints on time and resources, educators may feel that the programming is an unnecessary luxury…until they try it.

With our programs, seeing (and playing) is believing. Demonstrations and teacher interactions are key to spreading the word about out services. Once they try it, most educators start asking how they can bring it to their classrooms. We want to be ready to respond to their requests and foster their excitement about incorporating a new approach to learning in their classrooms.

The National Math Foundation provides advantages over other programs in the following ways:

Uniting Movement and Learning

Uniting movement and learning, a core feature of the National Math Foundation’s programming, is scientifically proven to benefit memory retention and quality of thought processes. An original article in the Journal of Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology focuses on exercise and its ability to increase attention inside primary school classrooms. A study of 1,224 children between the ages of 8 and 11, on skills such as addition, number sequencing, size ordering and sentence memory, found “compelling evidence that physical activity between lessons is a valuable component of the school curriculum, for academic as well as physical development.”

A 2012 article titled “Physical Activity Strategies for Improved Cognition: The mind/body connection,” referenced a study on Australian elementary students that found “across age and sex, academic ratings were significantly correlated with measures of physical activity” and that “it can be concluded that daily quality physical education appears to increase the rate of learning and is positively related to academic achievement.”

Comprehensive Learning – Making a Life, Not a Living

The National Math Foundation provides a comprehensive curriculum, instead of isolating each issue. Research consistently shows “that many children are physically inactive and become even less active as they age.”[3] Programming that weaves education, physical activity, nutrition, and math is highly efficient and can make it easier for students to adopt a healthy lifestyle without requiring additional study outside of school. Continued associations between these subjects will create sustained lifestyle changes.

This year-long study (referenced above), titled Physical Activity Behaviors through a Comprehensive School Change Effort, incorporated physical activity and healthy behavior material into the school curriculum and monitored the behavioral change from beginning to end. Half of the participants were in a non-intervention control group, yet “both groups became more active.”[4] Scientists attributed this change to interaction between the two groups during the school day and the general, school-wide effort.

The National Math Foundation amplifies such findings as it expands to include elementary schools across the United States. With a presence extending beyond the study’s one-year time frame, considerable progress can be made in all areas.

The National Math Foundation bridges the gap between scientific studies and application of kinesthetic learning. Research results show a positive correlation between movement and learning, however, very few programs have taken advantage of these opportunities. By developing an extensive program that uses movement-based techniques to build a strong foundation in literacy in math and reading, and healthy habits, the NMF will show immediate results through improved grades and will continue to benefit communities as math scores improve across the country. Instilling confidence in academics and lifestyle, the National Math Foundation provides young people the skills necessary to make a life as well as a living.

Teaching Young People – Elementary Support

The National Math Foundation targets elementary age children, in order to ensure long-lasting results. A strong educational basis developed at a young age will provide a distinct advantage as the child grows. Research released this January in The Journal of Neuroscience reveals, “the way in which the brain is organized for single digit arithmetic calculation predicts performance on more complex math skills.”

When brain imaging patterns in high school seniors were compared to Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) scores, high school students using “fact retrieval and fluency” areas of the brain did better than students using “problem solving strategies.” One of the National Math Foundation’s approved curriculums, Math & Movement™, builds these specific skills, which will best serve students later on in their schooling by shaping their thought processes.

Learning Advancement for Older Peers

Programming targets individuals in pre-K through fourth grade, but the benefits extend far beyond this age group. As students move through the curriculum, they can become “buddies,” tutoring younger children. In addition to building camaraderie, explaining math, physical activity, and nutrition concepts will help solidify the older students’ understanding and develop key communication skills the tutor can carry through to their other studies.

Reinforcement of Math Values Outside the School Environment

Modeled on Teach for America,™ the National Math Foundation will train recent college graduates to act as Corps Members in participating school districts. The program provides a five-week summer training course including lessons in teaching, observations and feedback, rehearsals and reflections, lesson planning clinics, and curriculum sessions.
Teaching assistants organize events such as “Family Fun Nights” that extend learning and the importance of math, nutrition, physical activity, and literacy beyond normal class hours and into a lifestyle. These events give over 300 individuals, including families, community members, and other students the opportunity to learn together in a non-threatening and fun environment. This increases visibility and creates opportunities for future collaboration and funding.

  1. Hill, L., Williams, J. H. G, Aucott, L. Milne, J., Thomson, J., Greig, J., Munro, V., Mon-Williams, M. (2010). Exercising attention within the classroom. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 52, 929-934.
  2. Fede, M. (2012). Physical Activity Strategies for Improved Cognition: The mind/body connection. Strategies (08924562), 25(8), 16-20.
  3. Kulinna, P. H., Cothran, D. J., Brusseau, T., & Tudor-Locke, C. (2008). Increasing Physical Activity Behaviors through a Comprehensive School Change Effort. AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference, Brisbane, Australia.
  4. Price, G. R., Mazzocco, M. M. M. & Ansari, D. (2013). Why Mental Arithmetic Counts: Brain Activation during Single Digit Arithmetic Predicts High School Math Scores. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(1), 156-163. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2936-12.2013